FOXY is asking women drivers for their opinions about increasing the period before a car has its first statutory safety check from 3 to 4 years.
Much as it did five years ago, the Government is seeking views on whether the age a vehicle gets its first MOT should be increased from 3 to 4 years.
Just to remind readers, the MOT is a car’s only statutory safety check and it is required annually after a car’s third birthday, even if it’s just a snapshot of safety areas on the day. Drive without one and your insurance is likely invalid.
As things stand, some 40% of vehicles fail their first MOT after 3 years so there is a definite safety concern were we to extend this period by a further 12 months.
The likely MOT verdict?
On first glance FOXY’d expect
+ motorists to say yes, because it’d mean them saving money and spending less time in garages.
+ car manufacturers and dealers to rewrite car servicing requirements to bring them more regular business in these early years.
+ garages and associated MOT service providers to be up in arms as this’d mean less business/more unemployment.
But I wonder how car insurers will feel about this knowing the relationship between safe cars and accident levels knowing that so many vehicles fail their first MOT at 3 years, concerning critical safety items like tyres.
And is it really a good idea to have vans on our road doing c50,000 miles a year for 3 let alone 4 years (150,000 to 200,000 miles without a check?) before they are subject to their first statutory road safety check?
Too important for women drivers to ignore
FOXY is preparing a response for the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) representing the views of women drivers and we’d welcome your opinion here.
As we see it, the UK’s MOT regime is ultimately about YOUR road safety and that of YOUR family, including pedestrians. This makes it too big a subject for women to ignore or allow men to make this decision, simply because they are more likely to be reading about this in the motor trade press.
I am particularly interested to learn why the Government is raising this debate, as it would surely earn less VAT money in the event of a first MOT after 4 years?
And surely this government has more important matters on its horizon.
But above all, I’d like to know who stands to benefit most from this proposal, if anyone.
We will then reflect your opinions and any concerns in our response to the DVSA.
Please have your say through FOXY by EITHER emailing your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or add to the thread at our Facebook Page.
NB: The options being proposed are:
1. to keep the current period for vehicles requiring a first MOT at 3 years, with no change
2. to increase the age all vehicles get their first MOT from 3 to 4 years
3. to increase the age cars and motorcycles get their first MOT from 3 to 4 years, but keeping it at 3 years for vans in classes 4 and 7
Last year saw the 80th anniversary of the introduction of the UK driving test when the very first one was taken in 1935, for the equivalent of 37.5p, by a Mr J Beene. Apart from during World War 2, when testing was suspended, literally millions have followed suit.
The UK operates a system where we can pass our test as early as 17 (16 under certain circumstances) and that’s it, provided we do not come to the attention of the authorities, perhaps through a speeding offence or a collision.
Just imagine how much has changed on our roads during the last twenty roads – surely refresher training should be a necessary discipline for us all to take to keep up with these changes?
In many of our working lives continual professional development (CPD) is commonplace and in some cases it’s mandatory.
And for good reason, as it helps us to manage health and safety, introduce working practices and learn about the latest innovations. Driving for most of us is one of the most dangerous activities we do on a daily basis, but we barely give it a second thought. It is perhaps considered a rite of passage into adulthood and just a necessity for the rest of us. Yet only a handful of drivers go on to develop their driving further and take a more advanced test or even have a refresher session.
So what stops us from taking our driving further? Having spoken to hundreds of women drivers over the last decade, common replies are often: “I know I should… I thought about it but wasn’t sure where to go… I don’t like the thought of being told I’m not good enough… I’m too busy…”
So this blog, based on an article from award-winning UK breakdown service Gem Motoring Assist, is designed to help answer those questions, and encourage more women drivers to take the plunge and come up smiling afterwards.
What happens on an advanced course?
Once you have decided how you wish to progress to advanced driving, you will be given the contact details of your trainer. The trainers and examiners are always highly experienced volunteers and have a passion for driving they wish to share with others. The training is conducted at a pre-agreed location and time to suit you. You can expect a number of sessions over several weeks, and will usually be driving your own vehicle. Many organisations do not put a time limit on the number of sessions you can have. After each session you can go away and practise what you have learned on your own.
The training itself will cover as many different road types and environments as possible, and will look at positioning, smoothness, safety, eco driving and perhaps a better understanding of the newer technologies fast being introduced into our vehicles.
If you wish, you can then take an advanced test which is often with an independent examiner, but only when you feel ready. It takes about 90 minutes to complete, again locally to you, and you are given the result immediately, along with feedback. If you are unsuccessful you can simply take it again in the future after perhaps a little more practice. No one needs to know and your licence is still 100% intact. If you prefer, you can just have the training itself.
What’s the point of taking an advanced test?
Everyone has a different reason for taking an advanced test (mine followed a stressful, not my fault, road accident), but some of the advantages are:
+ Improving driving confidence on today’s busy and testing roads.
+ A more economical driving style – expect your fuel consumption to improve by between 10 and 15 per cent, depending on your existing style.
+ Engine wear and tear will be reduced, as you may be changing gear or braking less.
+ You are statistically less likely to be involved in a collision, as you will develop a higher level of awareness and anticipation of hazards.
+ Insurance companies may apply discounts. It is worth discussing possibilities with your own insurer as many will recognise qualifications from the main advanced driver companies.
+ From an employer’s point of view, advanced drivers can reduce company risk and, potentially, insurance liability.
+ From an employee’s point of view, this looks good on the CV.
Finally, this is a great opportunity to brush up on current road laws or new signs by needing to look though the latest Highway Code. This is updated every few years and could be used in court when motorists clearly do not have up-to-date knowledge. Ignorance of the law is not a defence as is not knowing this fact…
Advanced driving choices
Some local authorities offer free or discounted one-hour assessments for drivers in specific age categories. Contact your local road safety unit to find out about current schemes.
Put ‘advanced driving’ into Google and a list of suppliers will appear, allowing you to search in more detail.
GEM Motoring Assist has joined forces with RoSPA to offer a one-hour assessment for drivers of any age. Check out the GEM website or call RoSPA 0121 248 2099. These types of assessments are confidential and there is no pass or fail.
Alternatively you can contact the Driving Instructors Association (driving.org) for a list of qualified instructors near you (that are also regularly checked by the DVSA for quality). In addition to PassPlus they also offer a special motorway training option and can build up your confidence and knowledge which might be appropriate when returning to driving after divorce, bereavement, ill health or being involved in an accident.
Proposals from the Department for Transport are intended to improve the number of learner drivers passing their driving test by making sure they’re properly prepared for this, including motorway driving experience as a new component, providing this is with an approved instructor.
So far, so good.
As things stand, 79% of new drivers are failing their first driving test. At £62 a time, this is an expensive exercise when you might need more than two attempts.
One measure the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is looking at is to levy a deposit which can be returned to the learner driver if they pass, encouraging them to take their test when they are ready.
I suspect the key word in that last sentence is ‘if’ as otherwise it would say ‘when’. This means that nobody who fails gets a refund of their driving lesson fee of course, it’s just that too many motorists are failing their first test by taking it too soon.
So is the test too hard? Are today’s learner drivers less able than we were? Or is it simply a case of there being too many wasted examination/test attempts preventing properly prepared drivers getting theirs when they’re ready?
Let’s see if we can unpick this and uncover anything new.
Facts and conjecture
1. Novice male drivers tend to be more confident than their female equivalent (at all ages).
2. Women are marginally better than men at the theory test (costing an extra £23).
3. Too many novice drivers apply for their test before they start their lessons.
4. Only one in five drivers pass their first driving test. That’s significant. I imagine these are likely to be a combination of the confident/dexterous males and the cautious (savvy?) females who wait longer to take their first test.
5. 113,066 male drivers were involved in accidents compared with 69,245 female drivers (2014 stats). And accidents involving young men ‘tend to be more catastrophic and to involve other people’ the AA confirms. Clearly novice drivers WILL have accidents so this gender imbalance looks like young men are driving too early ie without enough driver education?
6. Too many young drivers are clearly judged to be ready for their test before they are.
7. Some women think there is a gender bias here – to do with the gender of the examiner perhaps?
8. 80% of instructors are male (and probably a similar percentage of examiners) – this can be a fear factor/reassurance for many females.
9. There will be a fear factor of the practical test/examination itself.
NB: A gender difference is seen in schools where more boys tend to pass exams but more girls do better in the term/course work. Like the practical/theory driving test perhaps?
What’s to be done?
These are profound issues because of the safety implications, not just the cost.
If it were up to me I’d want to look at the following…
10. Allow/encourage young drivers to start learning to drive MUCH earlier, within a safe and secure environment. This is how you get the safety message through, by MORE driver education not LESS. Put it on the school curriculum even – this will save lives when combined with essential learning (and without any early ability to drive on public roads).
11. Look at test availability – is this improved if we stop speculative bookings? This needs to be more flexible.
12. Authorise ADI (Approved Driving Instructors) to confirm test readiness
13. Publish Driving Instructor pass rates – maybe some aren’t good enough?
14. Recruit more female instructors/examiners.
15. Consider restricting novice drivers (under 25) from carrying passengers (under 25) for 2 years after they pass the test??
16. Fit black boxes to cars novice drivers drive without exception (ie all insurers) and deal harshly/immediately with ‘red’ drives.
17. Review and follow up all young driver accidents with appropriate driver education.
Whilst the age old debate rages over which gender is the better at driving, statistics from the DVSA (Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency) confirm that women drivers beat men at the theory test, with 54 per cent of females (of all ages) passing this compared to 48 per cent of all males.
But after adding the practical test into this, men of all ages are much more likely to pass that driving test on the first occasion…
Interestingly nearly 80% of all driving test examiners are male ie 1,395 vs 381 female test examiners so maybe gender disparity here might be why women are more likely to fail their first driving test? Through nerves associated with a male examiner perceived to be critical of her??
And why men often think this makes them better drivers than women whereas the accident statistics confirm that in 2014, 113,066 male drivers were involved in accidents compared with 69,245 female drivers. Moreover, those accidents involving young men ‘tend to be more catastrophic and to involve other people’ according to the AA.
We’re not just talking about 17 year olds either, where 7% of females take longer to pass their test than boys. It seems that this is also true of older women with a staggering 50% taking longer to pass their test compared to their male equivalent learning to drive in their 50s.
Older women learning to drive
I know several ‘older’ ladies who needed to drive after a divorce or bereavement. Their husband/partner had done all the driving previously and the women now needed a car to maintain their independence. They were all, without exception, extremely nervous at the prospect of driving.
I’m sure it’s harder to learn at that age so I’d expect them to have needed extra lessons to settle their nerves first then to prepare for the driving test. But I also imagine they would have taken this seriously and become safer drivers as a result of their caution.
So what is going on here? And why are fewer females making the driving test grade compared to their male peers?
Women pay more for being safer drivers
The EU Gender Directive requires young women drivers to pay the same for their car insurance as riskier boy racers. And, as learner drivers, we pay more for our driving lessons than men (ie we take more lessons) costing as much as £300 let’s say, in terms of extra lessons and a second test.
Whereas young males who pass their practical driving test first time around, likely based on natural confidence and coordination skills (but who are more likely to be involved in serious accidents) pay less than their risk suggests they should.
Is this fair?
Exceptions apply in both gender camps of course. I passed my test the first time but was a rubbish driver at the time. Whereas my husband (who tells me he is and has always been a superior driver!) failed his first test. And I can understand why…
What women think about their gender and the driving test
A total of 37 per cent of women claim they are the one who is more careful, while 13 per cent believe that applies to their (male) partner.
The driving test research has provoked a strong reaction with some women claiming television shows such as Top Gear are promoting casual sexism due to their male-orientated approach.
Angela Clarke, 35, who passed her driving test third time when she was 18, thought there must be something wrong with the test.
She told The Guardian: ‘There’s no other way there could be such a bias towards one gender passing. The casual sexism that women are worse drivers than men is pretty prevalent. If you look at the laddish approach of shows such as Top Gear, you have to recognise that it’s part of our culture.’
Unsurprisingly, a spokesman for the DVSA said all candidates are assessed to the same level regardless of gender.
What can be done?
I’d like to see the following improvements to the current test regine.
1/ The driving test needs to include motorways, night-time driving, heavy traffic and country roads as compulsory ingredients.
2/ The DVSA needs to recruit more female examiners and offer women drivers one ahead of men to see if this has a steadying effect on nerves that might mean more pass than fail. Much as a new car test drive can be intimidating with an unknown (and often perceived to be critical) man in the car, driving in an unfamiliar area, many women would feel much more at ease were they tested by a female.
3/ Perhaps nervous older ladies might prefer a female driving instructor to take them through the learning experience. I certainly would now. Learning to drive should be an enjoyable not terrifying process and female instructors might better understand female fears than some males.
4/ Finally, if more lessons make women safer drivers than men perhaps there is a case for young men to have more lessons to pass the test. Maybe there needs to be a minimum number of professional driving lessons taken? If only to teach young drivers about testosterone and why the biggest killer of young teenage girls (on UK roads) is their driver boyfriends.